For the second year in a row, Uber is offering tech bros with money to burn an opportunity to transcend the crowds and headaches of CES by booking a helicopter ride through the app. Let’s be clear: this is not a legitimate way to get from point A to point B. But I would be lying if I said it wasn’t the most fun I had this week, and that’s coming from a guy who’s not the biggest fan of heights.
From January 4-8, people in Las Vegas for CES can select the Uber Chopper option in the app, and an UberX will arrive to ferry them to Maverick Helicopters on the outskirts of McCarren Airport. There, they’ll be treated to a 15 minute pleasure ride over the city. Laughing and shaking your fist at the Las Vegas Convention Center, where CES is headquartered, is optional. The price is $100 per person, give or take surge pricing several hundred feet in the sky.
Here comes the part where I tell you that this a total marketing gimmick that Uber likes to roll out during high-profile events, like Cannes, Sundance, and Coachella. Uber started out as a luxury black-car service, and what better way to honor those roots than by giving private helicopter rides to cash-flush tech investors during the year’s biggest consumer electronics show. Last year, Uber started offering yacht trips to decadent richies in Dubai.
But while cruising through the air with “Flight of the Valkyries” blasting in my headphones, I couldn’t help but think of the ride-hail company’s latest mind boggling project: Uber Elevate. In an ambitious research paper released late last year, the company envisions a fleet of lightweight, electric aircraft that take off and land vertically from preexisting urban heliports and skyscraper rooftops. These VTOL (vertical take-off and landing, pronounced vee-tol) aircraft would operate using fixed wings with tilt prop-rotors.
Will Uber Chopper beget Uber Elevate? Probably not, but with my head in the clouds, it was hard not to dream.